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Paucity of funds, COVID-19, others threaten countries’ plan to prioritise health, climate change

By Chukwuma Muanya
09 November 2021   |   4:02 am
A survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified lack of funding, impact of COVID-19, and insufficient human resource capacity as major barriers to plans by many countries to prioritise health and climate change.

A survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified lack of funding, impact of COVID-19, and insufficient human resource capacity as major barriers to plans by many countries to prioritise health and climate change.

The 2021 WHO health and climate change global survey, published yesterday, showed that countries have begun to prioritise health in their efforts to protect people from the impact of climate change. But only about a quarter of those recently surveyed have been able to fully implement their national health and climate change plans or strategies.

The survey finds, however, that over three quarters of the countries observed have developed or are currently developing national health and climate change plans or strategies.

According to the report, some 85 per cent of countries now have a designated focal point responsible for health and climate change in their ministries of health, while in 54 per cent of countries, the ministry of health has established a stakeholder mechanism (such as a task force or committee) on health and climate change.

About two-thirds of surveyed countries have conducted a climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment or are currently undertaking one, while virtually all (94 per cent) countries incorporate health considerations in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement.

WHO Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Dr. Maria Neira, said: “The new WHO survey highlights how many countries are left unsupported and unprepared to deal with the health impacts of climate change. We are here at COP 26 to urge the world to better support countries in need, and to ensure that, together, we do a better job of protecting people from the biggest threat to human health we face today.”

Countries’ inability to protect health from climate change is most harmful for their most disadvantaged groups, including ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants and displaced people, older people and many women and children.

Neira said: “The health arguments for increased climate action are very clear. For example, almost 80 per cent of deaths caused by air pollution could be avoided if current air pollution levels were reduced to the WHO air quality guidelines.”

The WHO survey finds that insufficient finance continues to be the top stumbling block to fully implementing national health and climate change plans, cited by 70 per cent of countries (up from 56 per cent in 2019). Human resource constraints are the second biggest barrier, while about one-third of countries identified a lack of intersectoral collaboration as a key barrier.